When it comes to the ketogenic diet and low carb foods … there is one food group I refuse to give up. Eating low carb vegetables has been (and will be) a part of my keto diet because of the valuable nutrients they provide.
As long as you know which vegetables are low in carbohydrates and stick to your daily macro numbers, there is no reason why you can’t continue to eat them. For example, I try and stick to a 75% fat, 15% protein, and 10% carb keto diet. So for a 2,000 calorie diet per day, I need to limit my daily carb intake to 50 grams or less.
Many of the great tasting veggies listed below can (and probably should be) eaten on a low carb ketogenic diet. There are however several vegetables that do contain a high amount of carbohydrates that should be watched.
I can’t remember where I read it now, but a great way to remember low/high carb veggies is like this –
- Above Ground Vegetable – If it is growing above ground, it is likely very low carb (i.e. celery, spinach)
- Below Ground Vegetable – Root vegetables growing below ground are likely high in carbs (i.e. potatoes, beets, carrots)
This doesn’t mean you can’t eat root vegetables on a keto diet, but you will need to carefully track your macros.
Which brings me to an important topic when it comes to the ketogenic diet and tracking your macros … net carbohydrates.
Counting Net Carbohydrates
It is important to understand that not every carb is created equal, which is why we need to discuss counting net carbs.
When it comes to counting carbs on the ketogenic diet, most people track net carbs. In order to calculate the net carbs you are eating, you take the total carbs and subtract any dietary fiber. Both of these numbers can be found on ingredient labels.
Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Dietary Fiber
So if 1 Tbsp. of your favorite almond butter contains 7 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of dietary fiber, there are 3 grams of net carbs per serving.
In the case of fruit and vegetables, you may have to get a little more creative in finding these numbers … like searching on the USDA Food Composition Database or even in your My Fitness Pal account.
Why are net carbs used? Because dietary fiber does not have any significant metabolic effect. And since we are tracking macros (in this case carbs), we want to make sure our numbers are accurate. Net carbs gets us closest to this number.
Note – I have read where some people following the ketogenic diet don’t use net carbs. However, my personal feelings is especially for fruits and vegetables it is okay to count net carbs. Processed foods, I could be persuaded to just count total carbs.
11 Low Carb Vegetables to Eat on a Keto Diet
If you are veggie lover, don’t worry … you can still consume some of your favorite foods on the ketogenic diet. Try and stick with green leafy, cruciferous vegetables that grow above ground if possible.
Here is a list of 11 low carb vegetables that you can start with.
Note – Nutritional information below is based on data from the USDA Food Composition Database. To make the comparison easier, the net carbohydrates for each veggie listed is based on a 100 grams.
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1. Celery (1.37 grams of net carbs)
For 100 grams of raw celery … the vegetable has approximately 2.97 grams of carbohydrates. Celery also has 1.6 grams of dietary fiber, which results in a net total of 1.37 grams of carbs.
Overall, this is the lowest net gram total of any other vegetable on the list. I prefer to snack on celery throughout the day, especially with a little guacamole! We will also use it a bunch in our keto friendly chicken salad with paleo mayonnaise (no sugar or dairy).
If you are looking for a good dairy free mayo … I suggest Primal Kitchen Mayo, which is made with avocado oil. It is also Whole30 compliant!
2. Spinach (1.43 grams of net carbs)
I make an attempt to eat spinach every single day. With only 3.63 carbohydrates per 100 grams, there are few vegetables that have fewer carbs. Even better is the fact that spinach has 2.2 grams of dietary fiber, bringing down the total net carbs to 1.43 grams!
When I am eating spinach, it is almost always in a salad with some healthy fats like avocado, ranch dressing, hard boiled egg, and/or meat.
3. Asparagus (1.78 grams of net carbs)
Raw asparagus has 3.88 grams of carbohydrates for 100 grams of this tasty vegetable. It also has 2.1 grams of dietary fiber, which results in a net total of 1.78 grams of carbs.
Personally I don’t care for eating raw asparagus and would prefer to either saute it in a healthy fat like coconut oil or roast them in the oven. It is important to note that the net grams of carbs will likely go up a bit when you cook them … probably a little above 2 grams. Still a very low carb veggie!
4. Avocado (1.84 grams of net carbs)
Quite possibly the best tasting food on earth (at least I think so), avocado’s have a whopping 8.64 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams. The good news however is that they have 6.8 grams of dietary fiber (awesome) which brings them way back down to 1.84 net grams (thank goodness)!
Eating avocado’s are also a great way to get more healthy fat into your diet … a ketogenic must! For one medium size fruit, it contains approximately 21 grams of fat.
There are so many ways to eat avocado’s. We love them on our salads, by themselves, on top of a bun-less burger, or made into guacamole. Is there any better food out there?
Note – Even though they are technically a fruit, I couldn’t keep avocados off this list of low carb veggies.
5. Zucchini (2.11 grams of net carbs)
Another great tasting low carb vegetable is zucchini, which has 3.11 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. It also has 1.0 grams of dietary fiber, which drops the net carbs to 2.11 grams.
My personal favorite way to eat zucchini is to make “zoodles” … basically spiralized zucchini that is cooked. We always saute it in the skillet with a healthy fat and use the zoodles to make keto friendly spaghetti or eat it with a low carb sloppy joe mix.
6. Cauliflower (2.97 grams of net carbs)
A keto favorite for many following this low-carb diet, raw cauliflower has 4.97 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. The good news is that the cruciferous veggie has 2.0 grams of dietary fiber, which results in a net total of 2.97 grams of carbs.
One of my favorite ways to eat this healthy vegetable is cauliflower rice sauteed in a skillet with a healthy fat. Cauliflower rice makes a great substitute for regular rice and will save you a ton of carbs!
7. Cucumber (3.13 grams of net carbs)
Similar to celery, cucumbers can make an excellent snack during the day and don’t need to be cooked at all!
For 100 grams of cucumber, the vegetable contains 3.63 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of dietary fiber. That brings the net carb total down to 3.13 grams.
I like to snack on sliced cucumbers dipped in paleo ranch dressing or with a side of guacamole. We also put them on salads and they are great to eat during a hot summer day!
8. Cabbage (3.30 grams of net carbs)
Raw green cabbage has 5.80 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. Cabbage does have 2.5 grams of dietary fiber which brings the net carbs down to 3.30 grams.
Typically, our family likes to roast our cabbage in the oven with olive oil and a few spices. Another option is to use it in dishes like the popular egg role in a bowl (a keto favorite), which cooks the cabbage.
And making cabbage roles is always a great option for getting this healthy veggie into your diet!
9. Broccoli (4.04 grams of net carbs)
One of the few veggies that my kids like to eat, raw broccoli has 6.64 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. Fortunately, it also has 2.6 grams of dietary fiber which brings the net carb total down to 4.04 grams.
We prefer to steam our broccoli and eat it with a healthy fat like ghee. Otherwise we will eat it raw with a paleo friendly ranch dressing from Primal Kitchen.
10. Kale (5.15 grams of net carbs)
When it comes to veggies, raw kale comes in on the higher side with 8.75 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. The good news is that it also has 3.6 grams of dietary fiber bringing the net carbs down to 5.15 grams.
I try and eat 3 or more cups of raw leafy greens every day … and rotate in kale several times a week. It is really good with a healthy fat like Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing. Or you can saute it in a healthy fat like coconut oil for a great side dish for any meal. Another option is to cook kale with scrambled eggs for a great keto breakfast.
11. Brussels Sprouts (5.15 grams of net carbs)
Another family favorite are brussels sprouts, which have 8.95 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams. This cruciferous veggie also has 3.8 grams of dietary fiber which drops the total net carbs down to 5.15 grams.
My daughter thinks these are mini-cabbages and we like to roast them in the oven with some olive oil and spices. From time to time, we will also eat these raw in a salad cut up.
Vegetables to Limit on a Low-Carb Diet
Some of my favorite vegetables are on the list above. The goods news is that each of those low carb vegetables are perfect for anyone following the keto diet.
Unfortunately, I have a lot of other “favorite vegetables” that didn’t make the list. Each of the following has a high amount of carbs, making them questionable for those following the ketogenic diet.
- sweet potatoes – 17.12 grams of net carbs per 100 grams
- white potatoes – 13.31 grams of net carbs per 100 grams
- onions – 7.64 grams of net carbs per 100 grams
- carrots – 6.78 grams of net carbs per 100 grams
- beets – 6.76 grams of net carbs per 100 grams
When it comes to vegetables with higher carb content, I think they can still be eaten on a low carb diet. However, you would need to carefully plan out your allowed daily carbs and make sure to stay under that total.
For example, a 5″ sweet potato has 22.26 grams of carbs! On my current macro plan, I am limiting my daily net carbs to 50 grams. So eating just one sweet potato gives me almost half my daily allowance. I can still enjoy a sweet potato from time to time, but have to be careful and limit my other daily carbs.
As far as onions, carrots, and beets – I don’t think these are as a big of an issue to fit into your daily diet. However, I wouldn’t suggest having onions at every meal.
It is a Lifestyle Not a Diet
To me, following the keto diet is more of a lifestyle than an actual “diet”. I am not worried about counting calories, nor do I feel deprived and starved for food. If I am hungry, I eat. But it is what I eat that is important. The low carb vegetables listed above make up a good portion of what I eat in a day.
And while eating a healthy diet is important for staying fit, you also need to balance it with exercise and other things like getting enough sleep and reducing stress. I like to add a couple 4-Minute Tabata Workouts to my weekly routine. Or if I have more time, a longer 20-Minute HIIT Workout may be in order.
Staying fit and healthy comes down to how much effort you want to put into it. It all starts with the foods you eat, how active you are, and what type of recovery you give to your body.